Today I spent a few hours sorting through the eclectic collection of donated textbooks that make up the library at the school that I volunteer at.
It’s strange, being back in a children’s textbook room. So many colorful, glossy pages of simplified science and history, designed to delight and engage the young mind. It’s irresistible to me, even now. I can’t be in a room like that without flipping through every book, soaking in the catchy and straightforward knowledge like a sponge.
It’s strange, looking at these books again, a decade and a half of life later. When I was reading those books, which I did often, I was captivated by the world they presented to me. It was full of strange and magical things, but governed by a morality that functioned the way it was supposed to.
I look at these books now, after years of training, and I can’t help but mourn that lost innocence, at least a little. I understand now that a price was paid for that simplicity. Such clarity can only be achieved with a sacrifice of the details, and of the complexity that allows for each person to take a stand.
In these histories, there is a clear right and wrong, with the student inevitably being placed on the right side. In these sciences, there is only the bright future of progress, with little mention of the shattering of traditions, the ethical dilemmas, or the ravaging of the environment.
If I were a cynic, I would believe that the authors of these books were driven by agendas, seeing the minds of the young as their land of conquest.
If I were an optimist, I would believe that these authors tried to strike a balance between presenting the facts and the need to speak to the minds of the young.
I think that, over the years, it has been a little of both. I’m not sure what that makes me.
All that aside, there is a palpable sense of wonder in a room filled with books designed to capture and enrich the imaginations of children. The world that those books describe is breathtakingly beautiful, and my heart can’t help but soar, a little, being back there again.